Jeanne Damas Embodies Paloma Picasso in Disney+ Series

When French designer Jeanne Damas’s agent called her a year ago to propose an acting role—a career-defining acting role, no less—she politely declined. Her brand, Rouje, was going from strength to strength. She didn’t do drama anymore.

Her agent persisted and the notion of the part—a starring role as Paloma Picasso in Disney+’s —began to percolate in Damas’s mind. She relented and did a screen test; the casting team loved the red-lipped businesswoman who stood before them.

Aside from Picasso’s own signature cherry pout (the artist was committed to Revlon’s Certainly Red and Love That Red, and later launched her own Mon Rouge line with L’Oréal), and the vague recollection of a perfume ad in the ’80s (the Paloma scent for L’Oréal was so successful it became its own body care line), Damas knew little about the woman she would embody on the small screen.

She bought two books— by Alicia Drake and Raphaelle Bacque’s —and immersed herself in the world of ’70s fashion – the jumping off point for the new series. What she uncovered was a true original – a trailblazer who was determined not to live in the shadow of her parents, the French artists Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot, but to forge her own path at first designing jewellery, then later dabbling in scent.

“She used fashion and beauty to play and define who she is,” recalls Jeanne, who found parallels between Paloma’s flea market wardrobe of ’40s dresses and the retro-leaning pieces produced by Rouje, which majors in quintessential French-girl style.

Playing a firm fixture in the fashion industry, like Damas herself who is in show when we speak, would not be such an insurmountable mountain to climb after all.

Jeanne found her way in via Paloma’s beauty essential—“a red lip is a way to hide yourself, but also show who you are—it’s quite contradictory,” notes Damas, and marvelled at the vibrant socialite’s ability to transcend the fashion politics of the day: “When you were friends with Karl Lagerfeld, you couldn’t be friends with Yves Saint Laurent, but Paloma was friends with both of them. She was an important person.”

Indeed, Yves’s 1971 show, entitled “Libération” or “Quarante” and later known as the , was directly inspired by the true individual whose wardrobe was considered shocking and avant-garde at the time. The edit of minidresses, platforms and heavy-handed make-up was widely criticised, but went on to influence popular fashion—just like the jewellery Picasso also created for Saint Laurent and then Tiffany & Co., where her colourful, progressive pieces, like the directional men’s line Paloma’s Groove, still sell well.

The red bridal dress Picasso commissioned from Karl for her black-and-white themed wedding to Rafael Lopez-Sanchez in Lagerfeld’s 18th-century Paris apartment exemplified the woman Damas came to appreciate as an icon. “Paloma wanted [red],” , “and what else is red in a wedding other than the idea of the heart? So I made a dress which looks like two hearts.” (In the interest of social relations, she wore a YSL look, dotted with rouge, earlier in the day.)

When Jeanne’s turn came to reenact the celebration in front of some 200 extras moonlighting as the fashion industry’s great and good, she had to channel her high-school theatre days and step out of her comfort zone. “It was nourishing for my creativity,” says the softly spoken Frenchwoman, who periodically apologises for her English but is resolutely charming on our call. “It’s good to get out of your little cocoon, I like the idea of not just doing one thing, but multiple projects.”

Picasso, a multi-hyphenate nepo baby before either term was even invented, could surely relate. Her ability to see the world through a different lens—such as the early subway graffiti she used as a jumping off point for her jewelery—deserves as much of the spotlight in as the couturier himself.

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